Public sector finance profession grapples with multiple challenges

ACCA’s Public Sector Conference looks at the challenges facing the public sector and suggests ways forward to transform the sector

The public sector needs to respond to multiple global challenges to create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future that works for all.

ACCA’s virtual public sector conference explored the challenges and the solutions that face public sector financial professionals as they work towards transforming the public sector. Such a task would be a challenge at any time but it is made significantly harder by a combination of war, high rates of inflation and a pressing climate challenge.

Accountancy is at the centre of public sector transformation. Finance professionals need the right skills to improve financial management and drive policy and spending decisions. New thinking in the public sector has never been more important and the conference heard about ACCA’s recently published guides on professionalising the public sector, launched with IFAC on 18 November 2022, and green budgeting. Both strong examples of the new thinking required.

The conference also heard about the unenviable choices facing finance leaders in the public sector. In the opening keynote Public Purse Prioritisation - public finance during a cost of living crisis Vladyslaw Rashkovan, alternate executive director at the International Monetary Fund and former deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, illustrated how tough spending choices were in a war zone, with trade offs between funding weapons or protecting citizens. He said: ‘Many hard choices exist over budget allocation. While slogans like build back better are great, winter is coming, and people cannot live on the streets. So, for donors and government the hard reality may bring unpleasant tradeoffs between the speed and quality of reconstructing of places where people are housed.’

Vladyslav added that there is a high and increasing demand for finance specialists to help rebuild Ukraine in multiple sectors. In the conference session, he set out 12 points that finance professionals should be addressing in war and post-war situations.

Sustainability reporting and assurance are evolving rapidly and will play an increasingly prominent role in the public sector. The conference looked at the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board’s recent consultation aimed at developing overarching guidance on sustainability, with a fruitful discussion between Auditors General on how to provide effective assurance on future sustainability reporting in the public sector.

ACCA president Joseph Owolabi said: ‘ACCA’s 24,000 public sector members make an extraordinary difference to the lives of so many, playing a key role in the delivery of public services and setting the regulatory environment to meet societies’ global challenges.

‘This conference – which comes at a crucial time for the public sector and looks at so many important topics – is a chance for them to reflect on the transformation they need to help deliver.’

To watch any of the conference sessions on-demand go here to the virtual conference site.

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ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants.
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"For donors and government the hard reality may bring unpleasant tradeoffs between the speed and quality of reconstructing "

Vladyslaw Rashkovan - International Monetary Fund